Marcia Eaton

Taking the Aesthetic Seriously (Part II)

CH 5: The Separatist Mistake



2.      Eaton on aesthetic experience and properties

         a.      Aes properties are intrinsic to objects/events

                   i.       Intrinsic properties are ones things would have if they were the only thing in the world (being a female); extrinsic properties are properties things have that depend on other things in the world (being a father)

                   ii.      An extrinsic property of an artwork might be the fact that it leads someone to immoral behavior

         b.      To have an aes experience necessary to attend directly to objects/events and perceive/reflect on their (aes?) properties

                   i.       Formalists right in claiming above

3.      Eaton grounds aes properties in cultural traditions (and this results--she claims--in integration of aesthetics and other values)

         a.      Thinks aes response is socially constructed to some extent

         b.      So must pay attention to way our aes values connect with other life values

         c.      A is an aes property of an object (O), iff A is intrinsic property of O and A is culturally identified as a property worthy of attention (perception/reflection)



5.      Formalism (“aestheticism”) excludes morality (and anything else)

         a.      Formalists go too far:

                   i.       Aes attention precludes any other kind of attention/reflection

                   ii.      Including moral

                   iii.     Moral considerations incompatible with aes attention

         b.      Posner:

                   i.       “The moral content/consequences of literature irrelevant to its value as literature”

                   ii.      Moral content--sheer distraction

         c.      Gass Nazi meal example (p. 112):

                   i.       Argument for separation of morality and aesthetic quality

                   ii.      Rabbi sits next to a Nazi for dinner. They eat a quail shot by the Nazi. Wine's taste not soured by fact sitting next to Nazi. Quail tastes no different simply because Nazi shot it. One could complain of one who enjoyed the meal and laughed at the Nazi's jokes. But whether the meal was well prepared or not is independent of the Nazi's presence. Just because values judged in close proximity, doesn't mean one need not judge them in their own terms.

6.      Eaton says this (formalism) involves “the separatist mistake”

         a.      The mistake of insisting that aes experiences preclude or are isolated from other kinds of experiences

         b.      Sometimes moral properties are inseparable from aes properties of artwork, so they can’t be irrelevant or distracting

                   i.       ??E.g., TW’s vision of Hitler has inseparable aesthetic and moral qualities

                   ii.      Sentimentality is both aesthetic and moral judgment

         c.      Attending to intrinsic properties of objects/events does not preclude connecting one’s attention to real-life concerns (e.g., in truth and goodness)

7.      Eaton’s slogan: Aes is “different but inseparable” from other values

         a.      Aes experiences (grounded in responses to aes properties) are special

         b.      Can be distinguished from non-aesthetic emergences (responses to non-aesthetic properties)

         c.      But not always separated or separable



9.      Eaton argues that aes values are more important and serious than often thought

         a.      Aes is not just a “frill”

                   i.       The last thing attended to after the more serious moral, economic, political, medical and other matters been attended to

                   ii.       Not a trivial value; like someone so concerned with how they look or judging people solely by how they look

10.    Separatists unwittingly devalue aesthetics

         a.      Separationists motive is often to make aes more important by separating it and making it pure

         b.      But Eaton thinks that divorcing aes from other concerns helps devalue aesthetics

                   i.       If aesthetics has nothing to do with the rest of life, that makes it less not more valuable



         a.      To explore (1) the different but inseparable claim (2) the relative strength of aesthetic and moral values

12.    One: Gauguin desertion of his family to paint in Tahiti

         a.      Only possible to successfully devote himself to certain kind of painting if he was there


         b.      Felt some remorse

         c.      Turned his back on familial obligations

         d.      Many appreciate, even admire his decision

         e.      How can one admire Gauguin’s immorality?

         f.       Bernard Williams: The only thing that can justify this decision is success itself

         g.      Example of aesthetics outweighing ethics? Of immoralism?

         h.      Example of moral & aesthetic values inseparable?


13.    Two: Goldfish painting

         a.      Dip goldfish in paint let them flop (at first frenzied, then sporadic as they die) on canvas

         b.      Produces bright and extremely interesting pictures

         c.      Some claim that knowledge of procedure does not modify their positive aes experience

         d.      (More) others claim it does

         e.      Note that “modify” does not mean necessarily making it worse or less aesthetically valuable

         f.       Many of both groups are non-judgmental to those in other groups (To each his own)

         g.      Some are more judgmental

                   i.       Soft hearts let a few cheap goldfish get in way of satisfying aes experience

                   ii.      Disregard or detachment from artistic process precludes an appropriate response

         h.      Are there norms of response here? Is one response more merited than the other? Are some responses more appropriate than others?


         i.       What if the painting was created by a human dipped in paint flopping around until she died?

                   i.       Aestheticism would need to say that this is irrelevant to the artistic value of painting; that appreciating the painting as a painting requires ignoring this feature

         j.       Moral and aesthetic inseparable here?

                   i.       Goldfish in a blender


         k.      Aesthetics outweighs moral considerations?


14.    Goldfish painting example

         a.      From Integrating Aes and Moral Value, Part III

15.    How do people react?

         a.      No single correct answer

         b.      Mistake to think only one right way to respond in a genuinely aes way

                   i.       Don’t dismiss response as nonaesthetic when experiences involve both attention to work and to world at same time

         c.      So Eaton making no normative claims here about what is a better, more appropriate way to react?

16.    Four reactions

         a.      One: Aes overwhelms ethics (overridden or precluded)

                   i.       So taken by colors don’t even think about fact painting was made by dying fish

         b.      Two: Ethics overwhelms aes (overridden or precluded)

                   i.       All I can think about is the poor fish

         c.      Three: Shifting back and forth between moral and aes responses, like duck/rabbit

                   i.       First I think about fish and am repelled, but then I think about how lovely the colors are

                   ii.      These experiences are rare says Eaton

         d.      Four: Aesthetics and ethics integrated (like seeing both horse and horse shape)

                   i.       Aes experience not wiped out, but changed

                   ii.      I enjoyed painting but now I know how it was made I don’t enjoy it quite so much; lines look creepy rather than playful

                            (1)    Aes does not give way to moral, but no longer please as much

                   iii.     Ignores moralism: Might increase aesthetic absorption (“pleasure?” or decrease pleasure, but increase absorption)


17.    Some people can’t forget

         a.      Look at painting see colored marks (intrinsic property) made by dying fish (extrinsic fact about painting) and makes it hard to enjoy colors

         b.      Can’t do duck/rabbit, look at marks on page and have aes experience and then just think about dying fish and have pure moral experience


18.    For her (and some others) actual perception of some works change when given certain bits of information

         a.      Pollution sunset example (sense perceptions change?)

         b.      The reflection or conception obviously changes

         c.      Hence overall experience changes

         d.      Look for things did not before (positive or negative)

         e.      Level of pleasure may change

         f.       Aes response result of aggregate rather than separate perceptions


19.    Duck rabbit experiences of aes and ethics rare

20.    Horse and horse shape: see both at once (more common)

         a.      More like as look at painting of a horse, we see horse and horse shape on canvas

         b.      See them both at once not just one and then the other

         c.      Two aspects of single experience

21.    Her goldfish experience involves two aspects of same experience, not two different experiences

         a.      Moral considerations do not necessarily block aes experiences

         b.      Being applied by goldfish is not relevant only to moral judgment and being frenetic is not relevant exclusively to aes judgment

                   i.       Distinguishable but inseparable components


22.    Three: Goody Two-Shoes

         a.      Applied to a person who is shallow, mindlessly follows conventional moral rules just to follow them, has no fun, seeks approval from authority figures, is self-righteous and boring

                   i.       Cares more about the appearance of being good than really doing right thing

                   ii.      Mother Teresa was not a goody two-shoes

         b.      Goody in the story

                   i.       Devoted her life to helping and educating those less fortunate than herself

                   ii.      Genuinely grateful for the smallest gifts, for getting two shoes instead of just one shoe

                   iii.     Led a pretty boring life

                   iv.     A conventionally admirable life

         c.      Is Goody more or less admirable or valuable than Gauguin or the artist who sacrificed goldfish for a greater artistic end?

         d.      How important are moral considerations in our assessment of a person (in how “admirable” they are)? How important aesthetic considerations?

         e.      Aesthetics and morality inseparable in this case?



24.    Art school does not make one morally better and moral saints don’t produce great works of art

25.    Not contradictory to combine positive one (aes/ethics) and negative other (ethics/aes)

         a.      Handsome rascals, beautiful devils

         b.      Sloppy but kind

         c.      Selfish but graceful

         d.      Contrast: “Beauty is as beauty does”

         e.      That + aes can be combined with negative morality and vice versa does not necessarily support the claim they are separate

                   i.       One thing can have dimensions that go in different directions

26.    Distinctive sense of taste: Idea that aesthetics involves a special and distinct “sense of taste” separate from other mental activities

27.    Formalists claim that aes involves only features like color, shape, line, volume, rhyme, rhythm

         a.      Artistic intentions irrelevant

         b.      Moral messages distracting




29.    Ethics overriding thesis

         a.      Moral concerns are more important than aes concerns

         b.      Moral considerations must be the most important for anyone who cares about morality

                   i.       Eaton thinks this debate presupposes separation of the two and she worries about this

         c.      False that moral considerations always more important than any other kind of interest

                   i.       Sizable financial cost not overridden by small moral concern (someone feeling minor embarrassment)

         d.      Jamieson art example: Removing art from London in WWII instead of protecting people


30.    Is there admirable immorality?

         a.      Rejection of ethics overriding claim

         b.      Good to put some considerations above morality

                   i.       E.g., Gauguin’s decision to put his painting before his family

31.    Slote: admirable but immoral character traits/virtues

         a.      Not same as admiring admirable traits in people who are overall immoral

                   i.       Daring robbers

                   ii.      Daringness is admirable, but not itself immoral

                            (1)    Can imagine same trait put to admirable moral end

32.    Single minded dedication to something (necessarily involves ignoring morality?)

                   i.       Such devotion is a good that entails wrongdoing in way daring does not demand doing evil things

                   ii.      Artistic single mindedness not generally a morally good thing and so if we admire it this is admiring immorality

         b.      Slote’s other examples: father refusing to turn in son to police and political decision to bomb/torture to bring enemy to its knees

                   i.       Both case seem to involve conflicts within morality, not something outside morality overriding morality

         c.      Single mindedness is admirable only if knows some bounds

                   i.       Those bounds are moral

                   ii.      Not admire a cook who killed for fresh eggs

                   iii.     Not admire Gaugin if he killed for art supplies


33.    Morality can get in way of other important goods (including aesthetic goods)

         a.      Real choices, dilemmas; can’t have it all

         b.      Being throughly good (moral saint) is incompatible with our idea of desirable personal life

         c.      Person can be perfectly wonderful w/o being perfectly moral

                   i.       There can be wonderful lives which are not thoroughly moral

         d.      Wanting to be a good cook will get in way of being a moral saint



35.    Our experience does not come in separate packets

         a.      As if we can look at the world first though one then the other standpoint

36.    Not claim aes exp/considerations never separable from other sorts

37.    Just not requirement of aes that other interests be blocked off/out

38.    Sometimes one consideration can be so strong it wipes out all others

         a.      Concern for a child may blind one to economic, aesthetic, or political aspects

         b.      Aes interest may erase concern for pain of Goldfish

39.    Are Eaton’s claims psychological or normative?

         a.      A description of how we in fact think or how we should think?

40.    Duck/rabbit example

         a.      In certain contexts, one might only be able to see the duck and not the rabbit

         b.      But usually we can shift back and forth between them

         c.      So blocking of aesthetic by moral or vice versa, not only possibility

                   i.       We can sometimes first consider moral and then aesthetic features

                   ii.      Assess Gauguin morally, then aesthetically then morally

                   iii.     Goldfish painting aes, then morally

         d.      Different but sometimes inseparable


41.    Aes experience involves focusing on intrinsic features of objects

         a.      But attending to other non-intrinsic features, like morality, does not dilute or erase aes experience

         b.      It is not like the duck rabbit–don’t need gestalt shift

                   i.       One version of separatist mistake

         c.      Is the idea that one can experience the aesthetic and moral at the same time w/o one undermining the other?

42.    Rejects color/size analogy with aes/moral properties

         a.      Nor is the relation of moral and aesthetic necessarily like being able to see color and size properties at same time

         b.      Color and size are very different, separate properties, even though we attend to them at same time

         c.      These properties are wholly independent of each other

         d.      E.g. like one might see an act as graceful and evil at same time and yet wholly abstract/separate the two

         e.      Another version of separatist mistake


43.    Judgment of sentimentality apply moral and aesthetic considerations simultaneously and they are inseparable (64)

         a.      Sentimentality: an appeal to shallow, tender, uncomplicated, uncritical emotions disproportionate to the situation at hand

                   i.       Taylor Swift’s music video “Belong to me” sentimental?


         b.      Both form (aes) (intrinsic features) and content (morality) (extrinsic features) are relevant to these judgments

                   i.       Content: facts about artist, effects on audience, moral principles, what is done

                            (1)    Must know and judge how people do or should react to death or unrequited love to judge if a song or novel is sentimental

                   ii.      Form/aesthetics: Also matters how something is done or said.